Book review: Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals, by Nancy Furstinger, illustrated by Vincent Desjardins

Furstinger, Nancy. Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals. Illus. Vincent Desjardins. Houghton, 2016. $16.99. 192p. 9780544650312. Ages 10-14. P8Q8

Furstinger MercyFor the first 50 years of his life, Bergh was a playboy—traveling the world, writing unsuccessful plays, and living off his parents’ money. Watching animal abuse during a visit to Russia in 1863, however, he became one of the strongest advocates for neglected and abused creatures from pigeons to the workhorses of Manhattan for his last 25 years. Through activism in this area, he affected public health, urban issues, circuses, child labor, euthanasia, and rampant political corruption throughout the second half of the 19th century. Color illustrations add to the interest level of the book, and vignettes of animal cruelty, while difficult to read, will involve readers beginning with the dramatic beginning in which Bergh tries to stop a dogfight. Despite ridicule from the press and sometimes the public, Bergh persevered, even fighting child abuse. Included in the book are period photographs, timeline, and list of resources.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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